The Age Of Accountability

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How well is your Marketing performing?

It’s amazing to think that in the mass media age, this was not an easy question to answer. Marketers would (for the most part) blow a budget on television, radio, print, out-of-home and promotion and wait for the quarterly sales reports to roll in… finger’s crossed. We would hope that our creative struck a chord with an audience and converted people from bums on the couch to foot traffic at the retail level. If we did everything right, we still wouldn’t be sure how well the Marketing engine was rolling along.

Welcome to the age of accountability.

Banner advertising (now known as display advertising) ruined everything. Yes, that’s a dramatic statement, but it’s true. When banner advertising first came out, it was attached with a very unique promise: now, all advertising could be placed in an environment that was relevant (contextual), the messages could be targeted (and clicked on) and every action taken surrounding the banner ad could be measured (from views to clicks to conversion). The dream was real… but the dream died. There are countless reasons for this (from technical and creative to the more philosophical debate about whether or not banner advertising was ever the right solution for the Internet as a media channel). Banner advertising also ruined traditional mass advertising. Those metrics now placed an incredible burden on marketers and media professionals. We could tell (down to the last pixel) what was working and what was not working… in near-real-time.

Marketing should always be about accountability.

Fast forward to our present day and it’s amazing to see the analytics and information marketers are given about what’s happening online. From website analytics to click paths to email marketing analytics to the types of insights that companies like Google and Facebook give their advertisers. There really isn’t any excuse for Marketers to not be held accountable for every media spend and every creative execution.

Sounds scary? 

As my sixteen year-old niece would say, "whatever." Get over it. It’s done. The toothpaste is out of the proverbial tube. The data and the analytics are here… and they’re right at your fingertips. If you’re not working in a constant state of testing and learning (optimizing every campaign for maximum impact), the only one to blame for the success (or failure) of your campaigns is you… and you alone. Yes, the right budget has to be in play for this type of execution. Yes, you have to have faith that running multiple variances on a campaign will bring you to a better spot. And, yes, you have to be able to speak and respond to your consumers in a real human voice.

Marketers, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to be accountable to the brand.

Imagine a day when you could have all of the data and analytics you have ever wanted. Imagine being able to track and analyze the journey of your consumers. Imagine being able to be a fly on the wall for all of their conversations with family and friends about what they love and hate about your brand, the competitors and the other brands that impact their lives. Imagine being able to speak directly to them and get their feedback. Imagine being able to test your creative in a live environment and see which of your messages actually resonates with an audience. Imagine being able to create as many layers of engagement with those consumers that you have ever wanted to.

It’s here. No need to imagine. You can do it all right now. What are you waiting for?


  1. The way I understand campaigning, my business since 1998, my passion since 1982, was always that one difference to traditional marketing is that in campaigning we try to define measurable goals and then measure and be accountable. It was possible before the banner. We just had to be more creative.
    What we found out, however, is that most product managers didn’t want it. It seemed good for them for the first project, when success became visible and obvious. But then it scared hell out of them. They saw it was possible (which they hadn’t believed before they worked with us) and then they got scared that failure would be measurable, too. Result: no measurements of achievements during a second project…
    Today I wonder, if they will really get over it or find ways around it…

  2. Good post, Mitch! I would add though that there is still room for the immeasurable. In fact, often we alter marketing in a way that makes it more measurable, which forces us to compromise. Social media campaigns are notorious for this because people want to know ROI. But sometimes, when you let go of measuring, the true art of marketing can shine, unhindered. But that doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t be accountable.

  3. Yup.
    The secret 1 is defining the right KPIs from the CLIENTs perspective. So you might have HR kpis, Marketing, Sales, etc. We ended up developing a Pay-Per-Success model in advertising. I talked about it in my talk on Wed at Internet week NY.
    Hehe, advertising companies as well as clients are not ready for this model. It is not only about agencies not being accountable, but also about clients who are not ready to engage in such relationship.
    Secret 2: Clients need to let strategic, creative and operational freedom to the agency, to pay fast, to offer incentives, etc. In other words to offer breathing and creative space to the agency to be agile.
    Currently most classic relationships agency/client are toxic by design.
    We need a paradigm change in order to be happier.

  4. I’m always amazed, with all the data available today, that marketers don’t use more the design of experiments concept: how to minimize the number of experiments to identify those parameters that are really important and beneficial. It originated from Total Quality but is a decisive method in today’s Fourth Revolution world.
    The most famous of those methods, the Taguchi method, is relatively simple and straightforward, and thanks to all the instant feedback we get from our ads or initiatives, it should be quite easy to significantly increase their impact.
    Marketers, read Taguchi and apply it!!

  5. Great points in the post. I think the interesting part will be the evolution beyond the current tactical analytics to ones that measure the overall health of a community and map how information moves.

  6. It’s amazing how “accountability†is viewed as a scary concept. I’m naturally one of those individuals that is curious about any and all metrics relative to a campaign – I want to know the when, where, how, why and who. And in return, our clients should inquire the same and expect just as much. Yes, accountability is important, and, even more important, you should not be frightened for being held accountable for marketing actions. If something did not go as planned (or even if it did go off without a hitch), figure out what did and did not work, and make it even better.

  7. This sounds like a Sales model for compensation. What if a marketers incentive package was based on return measured back to their advertising campaigns? Living off commission. That’s accountability.

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